Grassi, historicity, and rhetorical presence in John Ford's "Perkin Warbeck"
This research acknowledges history and drama as dynamic, not static. The reading or viewing audience takes an active role in rewriting or re-viewing what is read on print or seen and heard on stage. Every audience member brings to the book or the stage rhetorical presences which modify a person's experience of the book or performance. Also, every author, playwright, director, actor, and costume designer brings various rhetorical presences to the writing process or the performance which affect the rhetorical presences of audience members.
John Ford published The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck: A Strange Truth in 1634. Despite naming the drama "a chronicle history," Ford took license and changed certain details about his title character that were established in published chronicles. Perkin Warbeck, who claimed the English throne in the 1490s, is presented as a likeable character by Ford, not as the cowardly traitor like the Tudor chronicles' depiction of him.
Chapter 1 explores both the historical Perkin and Ford's imaginative representation of him. Quite possibly, Ford consciously intended each individual audience member to choose for himself or herself which one of Ford's imaginative representations should rule as monarch.
Chapter 2 compares Perkin to his archrival, King Henry VII, and to the mythical King Arthur. This chapter speculates on how the Caroline audience reacted to the language of Ford's imaginative representation of Perkin and the imaginative representation of Henry VII.
Chapter 3 presents Katherine, Perkin's great love, as the muse of Perkin Warbeck. Like a muse, Katherine inspires Perkin to his most exalted lines. Katherine also demonstrates superhuman qualities such as constant devotion to Perkin despite his change of fortunes and extraordinary beauty. Chapter 3 speculates as to how different Caroline audience members reacted to Katherine.
Chapter 4 summarizes the major findings of the study and suggests avenues for future research.